I am awakened by the sound of a driving rain. Ive been in Hawaii for seven days, and the sound has become surprisingly commonplace. The only reason Ive been stirred awake by this noise today is because its the first shoot day at 'Big Break: Kaanapali.'
Upon my arrival at the Maui International airport a week prior, I had been informed by one of the locals that they were bracing themselves for some Kona weather. My immediate thought was What the hell is Kona weather?, followed by Im not sure I like the way that sounds. Im in Hawaii, though. It was a beautiful breezy evening, and I had been standing in this exact spot not more than two months prior after spending four sun-filled days scouting the course/resort in preparation for the shoot. Nothing I had previously experienced would lead me to believe that there would be nothing but beautiful weather, and lots of it for the next three weeks. I would heavily regret that thought about 12 hours later.
Kona weather is caused when the trade winds (which come from the northeast) switch to Kona winds (which come from the southwest). When the trade winds blow, the northwestern section of Maui (which is where Kaanapali is located) is just absolute paradise, as all the rain and nasty weather is blocked by the west Maui mountains. When the Kona winds come, theres nothing to protect that section of the island from inclement weather, so whatever storms brew out in the Pacific slam directly into the west side of the island. I had been in Maui for not even a full day, and what followed for the next seven days was some of the worst weather Maui had seen in 20 or 30 years, and some of the heaviest downpours Ive ever experienced in person. This is coming from someone who lived thru the Central Florida hurricanes in the summer of 2004.
The week before shooting a Big Break is usually spent nailing down all the small details on site by various members of the production crew. In my case, there were two major details to contend with: the final logistics for the competitors race to the golf course and the two golf challenges in the first episode. For the five months prior to arriving in Maui, all challenges for every episode are conceptualized, tweaked several times, and eventually finalized. All that time, I was envisioning brilliant blue skies, a soft cool breeze, and a perfectly manicured golf course. I mean, its Hawaii, what else should be expected? So, when youre less than a week away from the first golf shot being hit on 'Big Break: Kaanapali' and theres nothing but torrential downpours, tropical storm strength winds, and a golf course completely underwater, panic slowly starts to set in.
The day after all the competitors arrived (one day before the first shot is hit) the plan was to shoot all of the show open elements with the ladies out on a boat just off the shoreline at Kaanapali. This would not happen as scheduled. (The shots you see in the open of all the ladies on the boat was shot on the one off-day halfway through the shoot) In fact, on this day, the day were supposed to be out in the middle of the ocean on a catamaran, the worst storm to hit western Maui in 30 years decided to make its way on shore. Luckily, we had put a contingency plan into effect two days prior, anticipating the worst. Theres an aquarium about 10 minutes from Kaanapali and we managed to get clearance to film all the girls close up shots inside this aquarium. So, all those cool shots youve been seeing in promos for the seriesthat was a contingency plan. Not bad, huh?
Thats not to say plan B went off without a hitch. While we were filming inside the aquarium, the weather outside got so bad that the roof of the aquarium started leakinglike, get-a-giant-garbage-can-to-catch-all-this-water-type leaks. We ended up getting stranded there for most of the afternoon because the only road back to Kaanapali had flooded completely over. And, we still were not sure if the course would be anywhere near playable in less than 24 hours.
Its now around 5:30 a.m., the morning of December 6. I get out of bed and draw the shade back from the sliding glass door in my hotel room to see what we have in store. As expected, the rain is still coming down and our first shoot day is in serious jeopardy. I get dressed and head to the hotel restaurant to get some breakfast, and discuss our options. Over our eggs, French toast, and Kona blend coffee we weigh every possible scenario. Can we shoot today? If we cant, how can we make up the time? Is it even possible to push the entire shoot back one day (which it wasnt), etc.? We were mere minutes from declaring the day a complete wash (no pun intended) when we hear the rain begin to let up. We emerge from the hotel to see a break in the clouds. There was no sunshine, but it was as much of a break as wed seen in days, so right then and there we decided to go full speed ahead and see if we could actually pull off this race. But we were in for yet another surprise.
We arrive at the section of beach that wed scouted to start the race. Mind you, we were standing on this very spot just six days ago and there was this beautiful wide, flat, pristine piece of shoreline. What we were now looking at was barely recognizable. Driftwood and random debris coated every inch of the beach. And to make matters even worse, the shoreline had been knocked back almost 20 ft by the unusually surging swells that had bombarded the beach for the past six days turning the normally crystal clear blue waters to a murky brown. There was also a battered, shipwrecked sail boat that washed ashore right where we had planned on starting the race, which just added to the incredibly eerie feeling of that morning. However, luck finally started turning in our favor. A state commissioned beach cleanup crew arrived just when we did and they volunteered to help clear off the section of beach that we needed to use. For the first time all week, I actually got the sense that we may get this done.
After a couple of heavy, but short downpours, we were actually ready to run this race. All the waiting, planning, and stressing would all be worth itas long as Mother Nature would cooperate with us for just a little bitand for 20 minutes she did. Team Pink and Team Orange finished neck and neck and then right before Team Purple came driving up to the tee, as you could see in the show, another downpour hits. I kid you not, the second we stopped rolling cameras, the rain immediately stopped, and the sun came out for the first time in seven days.
Now, I attribute this entire weather fiasco to one of two occurrences. The first would be an incident back in October while we were scouting the course at Kaanapali. The general manager of the Kaanapali golf courses, Ed Kageyama, was prompted with the following question, Whats the weather like the time of year were shooting? His response was, The winter is the rainy season, but we only get like seven inches of rain a year, so there shouldnt be anything to worry about. The official rain total for that first week was 14 inches. Thats rightdouble the annual rainfall in one week.
The second incident would be when we conceptualized and executed the start of the race. We took a Hawaiian tiki god, shoved a clue in it, and buried it in the sand. Hmmor maybe it was just the Kona weather.